Big time tennis is back after a lull. With top stars coming to Canada for the Rogers Cup at Toronto and Montreal, preparations for the year’s last Grand Slam at the Flushing Meadows, New York have begun. Playing his first big match after his Wimbledon victory, Novak Djokovic survived a real second round scare against Frenchman Gael Monfils before coming through in three sets and 2 hours 40 minutes. Monfils made Djokovic fight every inch of the way before losing to the Wimbledon champion after leading 3-1 in the third set. The tournament, which began on Monday August 4, 2014, was first played in 1881 and is now classified as ATP World Tour Masters 1000. Rogers Cup has the oldest history after Wimbledon and the US open and every year, Toronto and Montreal take turns to host men’s and women’s tournaments in tandem and none of the top tennis stars would usually give it a miss. This year women are playing in Montreal, which hosted the men in 2013. Over the years, the prestigious tennis tournament has been graced by tennis legends and champions including; Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The star-cast this year, however, is conspicuous by the absence of defending champion Rafael Nadal but all other top players are participating. Apart from top seed Novak Djokovic, Rogers Cup 2014 also features, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and many other top players.
Novak Djokovic is vying for his fourth championship victory at the Rogers Cup after he won the tournament in 2007, 2011 and 2012. However, on Wednesday, Djokovic was pushed to the brink by France’s Gael Monfils in a second round match. Playing his first match after winning the Wimbledon and his wedding, Djokovic found a feisty opponent in Monfils. After easily winning the first set 6-2, Djokovic lost the second in a tie-break. Monfils then launched a big onslaught and raced away to a 3-1 lead in the deciding third set. But the Frenchman could not capitalize on the lead as Djokovic broke him in the fifth game. Somehow, renewed pressure from Monfils disallowed Djokovic to force another break, despite holding three break points in the 11th game. Then Monfils found himself within two points from causing a major upset at 6-5 30/30 in the 12th game on Djokovic’s service. The Serbian composed himself in time and won 9 out of the next 11 points to advance into the third round with a 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 victory. But the no.1 seed needed to produce 36 winners and had to save six out of seven break points before he could survive. If Djokovic can win the Rogers Cup this year, he will join Nadal and Federer to be the third player in tennis history to complete 20 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles.
If Djokovic came off a scare, there were a couple of other matches in which established players were involved in tough battles. Last year’s finalist and Canadian hero Milos Raonic had to fight tooth and nail with the fast rising American star Jack Sock, who took the first set away from Raonic. The Canadian had the support of the entire Toronto crowd as he held on to win the next two sets on tie-breaks before coming through 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 in almost two and half hours. In another hard-fought match, Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka saved a match point against Frenchman Benoit Paire, before prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. The no.3 seed began by losing the first set 4-6 and brought the set score to 1-1 by winning the next 6-3. When the match went into the decisive third set, Paire held a match point on Wawrinka’s service at 4-5/30-40. The Swiss, saved the match point with an ace but the Frenchman managed to take the match to the tie-break, which Wawrinka took at his first match point. The match between world no.8 Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and American Donald Young also stretched to three sets before Dimitrov prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, taking advantage of all the four break-point opportunities that the three sets presented him.
In contrast to Djokovic, Raonic, Wawrinka and Dimitrov, Andy Murray and Roger Federer had easier time against their second round opponents. While, Murray outplayed Nick Kyrgios 6-2, 6-2 in 54 minutes, Federer took only 52 minutes to defeat local wild card entrant Peter Polansky 6-2, 6-0. Federer had skipped the Rogers Cup in 2012 and 2013 but he has won the tournament twice already in 2004 and 2006. Also advancing further in the tournament were; Berdych, Cilic, Gasquet, Benneteau, Tsonga, Ferrer, Robredo and Anderson.